LOVE con­quers all

Set in a time of his­tor­i­cal change, Ladies In Black shines a light on rising fem­i­nism in Aus­tralia and in­ter­cul­tural love, writes Neala John­son

Herald Sun - Hit - - COVER STORY -

SYBYLLA and Harry Beecham. Lady Sarah and The Drover. Sue and Mick Dundee.

The book of great Aus­tralian movie ro­mances gets a new en­try this week as Fay and Rudi step out in Bruce Beres­ford’s Ladies In Black.

Fay is a sales as­sis­tant at a posh Syd­ney de­part­ment store who “is dream­ing of ro­mance and a broader cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence than the one she’s been ex­posed to,” says the ac­tor be­hind the reg­is­ter, Rachael Taylor.

And Rudi is a Hun­gar­ian dandy, “a so­phis­ti­cated, well­read man of arts and cul­ture” who has fled his Nazi-oc­cu­pied home­land and dis­cov­ered a true “land of op­por­tu­nity” Down Un­der. “He’s dated his way around Aus­tralia,” grins the man be­neath Rudi’s cra­vat, Ryan Corr.

And it didn’t take much to get those sweet sparks fly­ing be­tween Taylor, 34-year-old star of Red Dog and Mar­vel’s hit Net­flix se­ries Jes­sica Jones, and

Hold­ing the Man’s Corr, 29. “Rachael Taylor is re­ally not hard to fall in love with,” says Corr. “We had a good jam to­gether and a good chem­istry to play out and have fun. Rudi, he’s fas­ci­nated with Fay from the mo­ment he meets her and that’s all based on Rach. She’s such a charm­ing wo­man, she re­ally is.”

Taylor reck­ons Corr has a charm­ing switch — “He an­noy­ingly just knows how to turn it on,” she laughs — and says their con­nec­tion was im­me­di­ate.

“He’s so lovely to work with and so tal­ented — it was a re­la­tion­ship that came very eas­ily. You never know with th­ese things, you get thrown in with an­other ac­tor and you’re like, ‘I hope this sticks!’ But he made it so, so easy.”

Based on the book by Madeleine St John (which was also turned into a hit stage mu­si­cal), Ladies In Black fol­lows a book­ish teenager, Lisa (An­gourie Rice) who takes a job in a de­part­ment store while wait­ing to hear if she’s been ac­cepted into the Univer­sity of Syd­ney. There she’s taken un­der the wing of her fel­low ladies in black, played by Taylor and Ali­son McGirr, and Magda (Ju­lia Or­mond), a refugee with ex­otic style who man­ages the “model gowns” de­part­ment.

“It’s about this great mo­ment of change in Aus­tralian cul­ture, with Euro­pean mi­grants com­ing into Syd­ney and the rise of fem­i­nism and the sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion of the 1960s right around the cor­ner,” says Taylor.

“The film is about Lisa’s de­sire for more, but it’s also about how this de­part­ment store opens her eyes to a whole new world and to the dreams and de­sires of the other women in the film. All of the fe­male char­ac­ters in the film are all com­ing into their power and tak­ing com­mand of their fu­tures, whether in Lisa’s case that’s the dream of pro­fes­sional and aca­demic glory, or in the case of Ali McGirr’s char­ac­ter, a de­sire for love and sex and to have chil­dren of her own.

“It’s a movie that is de­light­ful and comedic and ro­man­tic on the sur­face, but full of th­ese rich emo­tions un­der­neath.”

Corr’s trans­for­ma­tion into Rudi re­quired a to­tal makeover — “I tell you what, it scares me a lit­tle bit, I look like my grand­fa­ther!” he laughs — as well as wran­gling his ac­cent into some­thing that could rea­son­ably pass for Hun­gar­ian.

“I sounded like a nutty Ger­man when I first came into test for the role,” he ad­mits. “If there’s one thing I had to get right in this, be­sides his ob­vi­ous love for Fay, it was that ac­cent.”

With a rare chance to use her na­tive tones, Taylor had it easy on the ac­cent front.

But she didn’t find the ’50s


fash­ion par­tic­u­larly comfy.

“Ali­son and I were jok­ing that we loved get­ting dolled up like that, but we were also very grate­ful to be in 2018 where we can throw on a pair of sweat pants and a T-shirt and that is also ac­cept­able,” she laughs.

Hav­ing first leapt into the na­tional con­scious­ness with TV drama Head­land in her early 20s, Taylor is th­ese days mak­ing a habit of pick­ing projects with women at the fore­front.

“I re­ally care about how women are rep­re­sented on screen, it’s im­por­tant,” she says.

“I care about strong women be­ing por­trayed and putting for­ward rich, com­pli­cated and lov­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tions of fe­male friend­ship — that’s some­thing I found both in Jes­sica Jones and Ladies In Black.”

She be­lieves Ladies In Black is timely in its de­pic­tion of “women as­sert­ing them­selves” as well as be­ing “a cel­e­bra­tion of Aus­tralia’s mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism”.

“That’s so im­por­tant to re­mem­ber,” she says. “I think we for­get where our good cof­fee came from.”

Corr, who grew up in sub­ur­ban Don­caster sur­rounded by Greek and Ital­ian mi­grants who ar­rived in the same era de­picted in the film, agrees it’s this “mixed bag of cul­tures” that has made Aus­tralian cul­ture so rich.

“It’s valu­able for us to re­flect on how much Aus­tralia has gained from im­mi­gra­tion and di­ver­sity. We’re a coun­try where ac­cep­tance is para­mount.”

Taylor calls Ladies In Black a “soul tonic”. While she couldn’t make it home for last week’s pre­miere in Syd­ney, Corr is happy to re­port that ev­ery­one left the cin­ema smil­ing.

“It’s a fem­i­nist tale, it’s a tale about in­clu­siv­ity and mak­ing the most of, and it’s a love story. You walk out feel­ing good.”

WATCH LADIES IN BLACK opens to­mor­row


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